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10 Tech Items to Have On-Hand During an Emergency

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 8/31/2020 Brandt Ranj
a man using a laptop: best portable car charger jump start car emergency © Provided by Rolling Stone best portable car charger jump start car emergency
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Nobody wants to think about being stuck in an emergency, whether it’s a nasty storm, or health advisory, but it’s better to be prepared before problems arise.

You can’t account for every situation, but we’ve rounded up a handful of tech accessories that you should have on hand in case you’re stuck somewhere for a few days.

Our focus was on making sure you had steady access to power, a light source, and information that can help you stay informed whether you’re on — or offline. Here’s what to keep on-hand at home or to pack in your emergency kit or car.

1. A Battery Pack That Can Charge Your Laptop

Battery packs have become an essential accessory for anyone who wants to keep their phone’s battery from dying, but most of us use small ones, which aren’t very useful if you have to spend a couple of days without power.

In emergency situations, I turn to a high-capacity battery pack from Anker, which has enough juice to fully recharge an iPhone X six times, and a 13-inch MacBook Pro once. The battery has two regular USB ports, which can quickly charge smaller gadgets like phones, and a USB-C port for charging tablets and laptops.

Anker’s battery pack also comes with a USB-C charger, which can refill the battery in three and a half hours. This charger can also be used to charge your laptop or other devices quickly.

Anker USB C Charger, PowerCore+ 26800 PD, $129.99, available at Amazon

2. A Portable Car Jump Starter

Need something a little more heavy-duty? Mophie’s powerstation go has enough juice to jump-start your car. The pocket-sized device features two USB-A ports, a built-in LED floodlight, and spark-proof jumper cables, for when you need to get under the hood. The charger also features a wireless charging surface for you to charge-up any Qi-enabled device with up to 5W of power.

Mophie powerstation go, $159.95, available at ZAGG.com

3. A Rechargeable Flashlight

If you don’t camp, it’s easy to forget that flashlights are incredibly useful to keep in the house when the power goes out.

Anker’s LC90 is a small, bright, water-resistant flashlight with a rechargeable battery. The flashlight can get up to 900 lumens bright, and allows you to cycle between a handful of modes that change its brightness and focus, so you can create a thinner or wider beam.

Its battery lasts up to six hours depending on the brightness setting you use, and the flashlight can be charged via MicroUSB. Anker includes a cable with the flashlight, but you’ll need to plug it into a battery pack or wall adapter to charge it.

Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight, $29.99, available at Amazon

Don’t have access to power? Pick up this hand-crank flashlight as a backup. It charges via solar power or by turning the handle. One minute of winding gets you up to eight minutes of light. $9.99 on Amazon.com.

4. A Portable Generator

The battery pack we mentioned earlier is great for charging your portable gadgets, but what about small appliances? For those, we recommend Jackery’s Portable Power Station. The 240Wh (watt hour) battery has two USB ports, a car cigarette lighter, and a full 110v, 200W power outlet. It’s got enough juice to keep you powered outdoors, or to power up an entire 4K TV.

The battery pack will automatically shut off if you connect an appliance that draws more than 200 watts of power (a newer version raises the maximum to 500w), so you’ll need to check the power consumption of the devices you want to charge.

If you really want to be prepared, you can get an optional solar panel to recharge the generator using the sun.

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240, $249.99, available at Amazon

5. A Handheld Radio

If you want to get up-to-date information when the internet is down, or you want to preserve your phone’s battery, nothing beats a portable transistor radio. Vondior’s is pocket-sized, and has a mono speaker and AM/FM dial. It’s also got a headphone jack if you don’t want to disturb other people.

You won’t get an audiophile experience when listening to music, but it’s important to keep around in times of crisis, to tune into any important announcements or warnings from officials.

Vondoir AM FM Battery Operated Portable Radio, $19.97, available at Amazon

6. An HDTV Antenna

A TV antenna might seem trivial on this list, but it’s not just about staying entertained while quarantined; a reliable antenna will enable you to watch live broadcast TV for free, which can come in handy during an emergency to check the news and weather.

The channels you get will depend on your area, and the strength of the antenna, and you’ll be limited to a handful of networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and PBS. Still, in times of emergency, the HDTV antenna is the visual equivalent of the radio; you’ll get updated information without relying on an internet connection.

I’ve personally had good experiences with Mohu’s antennas, so I’m recommending their new, 4K-ready ReLeaf antenna. It’s made out of recycled materials, and can get signals from up to 30 miles away, which should be sufficient for most people. If you live in a more rural area, I recommend picking up an antenna with a 60 mile range  just in case.

Mohu Indoor TV Antenna, $34.47, available at Amazon

7. A Battery-Powered Lamp

Flashlights are great if you need to go outside during a rainstorm, or head to an especially dark area like a basement, but you’ll want a battery-powered lamp to light a room.

Embrighten’s option puts off 550 lumens of light, which the company says can illuminate a radius of 60 feet. Its batteries can last up to 200 hours per charge depending on which of the three dimming settings you use.

This lamp was designed for camping, so its IPX4 water-resistance rating means it can handle being splashed in case you use it in rain, but we recommend keeping one or two of these around in case you’re out of power for an extended period of time

Enbrighten LED Camping Lantern, $29.99, available at Amazon

8. Rechargeable Batteries

Most of our modern gadgets run on rechargeable batteries, but some, like the radio and lamp on this list, require traditional ones. We recommend keeping a set of AA, AAA, and D batteries around just in case. Energizer batteries are always reliable and long-lasting. Keep a set at home, in the car and in your bug-out bag.

Energizer AA Batteries (48), $19.98, available at Amazon

Energizer AAA Batteries (48), $20.45, available at Amazon

Energizer D Batteries (12), $15.99, available at Amazon

9. A WiFi Hotspot

Our smartphones can access the internet from anywhere thanks to their cellular connection, but the same can’t be said of most laptop or desktop computers. Some cellphone plans include a “hotspot” mode, which lets your computer share your phone’s internet connection, but it’s best to keep a WiFi hotspot around, too.

WiFi hotspots require their own SIM card from your cellphone provider. These hotspots create a WiFi network that all of your computers and smart home devices can connect to for internet access.

ZTE’s Velocity 2 is compatible with GSM unlocked NanoSim cards (T-Mobile and AT&T use these) and can connect to cellphone networks on a variety of frequencies to get service. Your internet speed will vary based on how strong your cell phone provider’s service is in your area.

This accessory can come through for you in an emergency, but you can also take it with you when you travel abroad. Pop in a compatible SIM card from another country, and you’ll have WiFi with you wherever you go.

ZTE Velocity 2, $159.95, available at Walmart

10. A Solar Charger for When the Power Goes Out

When you aren’t able to plug in, a reliable solar charger will help keep the power on. We like this one from GoerTek, which features a built-in 25000mAh Li-polymer battery. The solar panel charger can charge an iPhone more than seven times, a Galaxy S9 Plus up to six times, and an iPad Pro for 1.6 times. Three USB ports let you charge three devices at a time. Built-in LED lights let you use the charger as a flashlight too.

A durable, rugged shell makes this a no-brainer for the outdoors. The charger has a IPX6 waterproof rating, which means it can withstand high-pressure, heavy sprays of water.

You’ll want to leave the charging panels exposed to direct sunlight for at least a day to re-charge the battery. The USB port also lets you charge the device via regular outlets for a faster boost as well.

GoerTek Solar Power Charger Battery Pack, $49.99, available at Amazon

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